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In Anger Kills, Dr. Redford Williams reveals ground-breaking research that confirms that hostility not only is a serious barrier to happiness, but can lead to heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.
Dr. Williams and his wife, Virginia, team up to present the latest research in the field and offer seventeen practical strategies that can help readers translate scientific theory into meaningful action. Begin by taking the Hostility Questionnaire, which will help you assess the degree to which hostility, cynicism, and aggression rule your life. Then start a Hostility Log and follow the Hostility Roadmap to keep track of those incidents or people that really push your buttons. With these insights, you can then move on to sample any or all of the seventeen different strategies to reduce the wrath that sabotages your health and can drain your life of joy and pleasure.
In writing Anger Kills, the authors draw not only on the latest research, but on their own experiences as a couple for more than twenty-nine years and on the experiences of couples who have used the Williamses' methods successfully in various workshops the authors have led. The result is a combination of solid science with empathic explorations of the nature of human relationships and caring. This is science with a heart.
Author Biography: Redford Williams, M.D., is director of behavioral research at Duke University Medical Center, professor of psychiatry, and associate professor of medicine. He interned at Yale University School of Medicine and did two years of research at the National Institutes of Health. He is the author of The Trusting Heart as well as dozens ofscientific papers.
Am I at Risk?
"We boil at different degrees."
Ralph Waldo Emerson,
nineteenth-century U.S. philosopher
"Anger kills. But will it kill me?" you ask.
About 20 percent of the general population has levels of hostility high enough to be dangerous to health. Another 20 percent has very low levels, and the rest of the population falls somewhere in between.
Let's determine your profile right now, before you read about the research behind the strong statements in the introduction. At this early juncture, you will be better able to assess your risk without being tempted to second guess how your answers fit with the research findings.
Unfortunately, there is at present no "gold standard" test you can take to gauge whether your hostility level is in the dangerous range. As research over the past decade has pointed more and more to hostility as a health-damaging personality trait, questionnaires, interviews, and other techniques to measure this toxic characteristic have proliferated. But as of now, none of these approaches can be accepted as definitive.
The single questionnaire that appears most valid--in terms of ability to predict increased risk of disease and death in several studies--is the "Hostility" ("Ho" for short) scale, made up of fifty questions from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a widely used psychological test. However, not all studies--for reasons as yet unclear--have found Ho scores to predict health problems. And in a study led by John Barefoot, one of Redford's colleagues at Duke, just twenty-seven of the Hoscale's fifty questions accounted for the prediction of increased death rates in a group of attorneys who were followed up twenty-five years after taking the MMPI while in law school. The other twenty-three questions did not predict this result at all.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that development of better hostility-assessment tools is an area of intense ongoing research interest. Hence, Redford and his colleagues have grouped, according to their content, the twenty-seven Ho scale questions that did predict higher death rates in the study of lawyers. This led to the formation of three categories of questions that relate to hostile attitudes, emotions, and actions. Using those questions and categories as a starting point, we have added additional questions from other scales and questionnaires, as well as drawn upon our own personal experience (especially Redford's as a typical hostile guy), to develop an expanded set of questions tapping each of these three categories. The result is the new Hostility Questionnaire you are about to take. To make the questionnaire easier to understand and take, we have simplified the format of the questions.
Although this questionnaire is still in the process of being validated in Redford's ongoing research, it should be at least as valid as the Ho scale that is its principal source. We have used it in some of the seminars and workshops we have conducted recently and find that most people taking it feel that it accurately taps their hostility level.
Go ahead now and take the Hostility Questionnaire, which follows. It will provide you with one yardstick by which to measure your hostility level. The last part of this chapter offers a second approach you can use to assess your hostility.
Taking a written test is the first and easiest way to evaluate your hostility level. Your answers, taken all together, should provide a reasonably accurate profile of your attitudes and behaviors, if you take care to answer accurately.
It's always tempting to answer such questions as though a parent, fifth-grade teacher, or someone we want to impress were looking over our shoulder! Try to get rid of your chaperone before you begin. Avoid the temptation to choose the response you think you ought to pick, or the one you think would sound right to other people. Answer as spontaneously as you can. Otherwise, you will only be fooling yourself. Unlike the tests you took in school, there are no right or wrong answers here. What feels right to you is the correct answer.
Each question describes a specific or general situation that you have probably encountered. If you haven't encountered it, imagine as vividly as you can how you would react in the situation.
After each description you are presented with two responses, A or B, describing how that situation might affect you, or how you might behave under those circumstances. In some instances, neither response may seem to fit, or both may appear equally desirable. This is normal; go ahead and answer anyway, choosing as best you can the single response that is more likely for you in that situation.
You may prefer to write down the numbers 1 through 46 on a blank sheet of paper, and then write an "A" or "B" beside each number, to indicate your choice for the corresponding question. This way, others can take the test without being influenced by your responses. In addition, your responses can remain private.
Remember, choose only one response for each situation described.
Take as much time as you need to make your choice for each item, but remember that what seems right at first glance--your "gut" reaction--usually represents your true position. On average it should take about fifteen minutes to answer all of the questions.
As you will learn in the next chapter, these may be fifteen minutes that will help you decide you need to make fundamental changes in how you think, feel, and act.
1. A teenager drives by my yard with the car stereo blaring acid rock.
A. I begin to understand why teenagers can't hear.
B. I can feel my blood pressure starting to rise.
2. The person who cuts my hair trims off more than I wanted.
A. I tell him or her what a lousy job he or she did.
B. I figure it'll grow back, and I resolve to give my instructions more forcefully next time.